Read an Excerpt
This was ridiculous. Anyone would think that Marc was five years old and about to start his first day at school, not thirty-five and about to start his first day as a GP at Pond Lane Surgery.
He shook himself. There was absolutely no reason for him to be nervous. If Sam, the senior partner at the practice, hadn't thought that Marc would fit into the team, he wouldn't have offered him the job. Marc had spent ten years working in a busy practice in London. Working in a sleepy country town would be different, but he'd wanted different. Something to help him leave the memories behind.
He took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
The middle-aged woman at the reception desk smiled at him. 'It's a bit early for appointments, I'm afraid. We're not quite open yet.'
'I'm not actually here for an appointment,' he explained. 'My name's Marc Bailey.'
'Oh, our new GP! Welcome to the practice.' She shook his hand. 'I'm Phylliswell, obviously I'm the receptionist. Sam's expecting you. I'll take you through to his office.'
A friendly face on Reception was a good start. Hopefully the rest of the day would match up to it.
Phyllis rapped on the open door. 'Sam? Marc Bailey's here.' She smiled at Marc. 'I'll leave you to it. If there's anything you need, just let me know.'
Sam shook his hand warmly. 'Welcome to Pond Lane. I hope you don't mind, Marc, but I'd like you to work with Dr Grant for the first half of the morning. I know you're perfectly capable of settling in by yourself, but it always helps to have someone teach you the horrible little quirks of a computer system that's new to you.'
'Uh-huh.' Marc wondered where this was leading. Was having someone shadowing him his new boss's way of making sure that he'd made the right decision in offering Marc the job?
'And you'll be helping her at the same time. Laurie works part time at the surgery. She's halfway through qualifying as a GP trainer, and it'll be useful for her to sit in on consultations with someone she hasn't worked with before.'
Marc gave him a wry smile. 'It's been a while since someone observed me in a consultation.'
'Laurie won't bite. She's a sweetie, and she makes the best lemon cake ever,' Sam said with a chuckle.
'Right.' Marc imagined a doctor in her mid-forties, the motherly type, who wanted to enrich her career by teaching new doctors.
'Oh, and I should warn youshe has this pet project. Given your experience in sports medicine, she might ask you to help out.'
Marc wasn't sure whether to be more intrigued or concerned. 'Noted,' he said.
'I'll take you through to Laurie.' Sam shepherded him through to Laurie's room. 'Marc, this is Laurie Grant. Laurie, this is Marc Bailey, our new GP.' He patted Marc's shoulder. 'I'll leave you to sort things out between you.'
Laurie was nothing like Marc had expected. She was in her early thirties, a couple of years younger than himself, he'd guess, but what he really noticed were the dark corkscrew curls she'd pulled back in a scrunchie, her piercing blue eyes, and the sweetest-looking mouth he'd ever seen.
Which was terrible. He shouldn't even be noticing this sort of thing about her. She was his new colleague, and for all he knew she could be married.
Worse still, he found himself actually glancing at her left hand, to check.
No ring. Not that that meant anything.
She didn't seem to notice, and simply held out her hand to shake his. 'Welcome to Pond Lane, Marc.'
When his palm touched hers, it felt like an electric shock.
This really couldn't be happening.
But either it wasn't the same for her, or she was a bit better than he was at ignoring the zing of attraction, because she said, 'It's really good of you to let me sit in on consultations with you this morning, especially as it's your first day here. Leigh, the practice manager, is off today, but she left me all the details so I can set you up on the computer.' She laughed. 'Sam has this mad idea that because I'm the youngest doctor in the practice, it means I'm the one who's best with computers.'
'Are you?' Marc asked.
'Only because my brother's a computer consultant and taught me a lot, to stop me ringing him up and wailing down the phone to him every time I got stuck when I was a student,' she said cheerfully. 'Shall we grab a coffee, then go to your room and make a start?'
'Sure.' Marc found himself warming to her. She was efficient and bubbly, with an overlay of common sense: it was a good combination, and he'd just bet her patients adored her.
They headed for the staff kitchen, and Laurie switched the kettle on. 'Do you prefer tea or coffee?'
'Coffee's great, thanks.' Instant coffee, he noticed. A couple of years ago, he would've been a bit sniffy and insisted on bringing in a cafetiere and a special blend of ground beans; and his suit for work would've been a designer label, his shirts hand-made. Nowadays, he knew there were more important things in life. And how he wished he'd been less shallow when he'd been younger. That he'd appreciated what he'd had.
'Milk or sugar?' she asked.
'Just as it is for me, thanks.'
She added a large slug of milk to her own mug, then shepherded him to his consulting room. Which looked incredibly bare: the only hint of colour was the plant on the windowsill. Compared to hers, which had had a child's paintings on the walls and framed photographs on her desk, the room looked impersonal and slightly daunting.
He'd have to change that, to help put his patients at ease. Though, even if all his photos hadn't been packed away, he couldn't quite face putting a photograph on his desk. This was a new start for him. No memories.
There was also a state-of-the-art computer on his desk, he noticed.
'It's probably very similar to the system you used before, but this one does have a couple of quirks.' She switched it on, and fished a note out of the file she carried. 'This is your username and password.'
And he noticed that when she talked him through the system, she let him press the keys rather than rattling through it and expecting him to watch what she did and take it all in. 'You're very good at this teaching stuff.'
'Thank you. It's something I like doing.'
'Is that why you're doing GP training?'
She nodded. 'Sam believes in job enrichment. Rickyhave you met Ricky yet?' At his shake of the head, she said, 'He's not in today, but he has ALS training. We all have our special interests. One of my friends suggested being a GP trainer, because I was always good at explaining things when I was helping others revise for exams. I looked into it and talked to Sam, and an opportunity came up last year to start a course.
It means fitting things about a bitI'm at the university one morning a week in term-timeand my hours are a bit odd, but I'm enjoying it.' 'Sounds good.'
Marc had a lovely voice, and Laurie hoped his manner with patients lived up to it. The last locum at the practice had been terrible, speaking to patients as if they were five years old, and they'd all complained to Phyllis and asked not to have any more appointments with him.
Though Marc was permanent rather than a locum. Given that he was moving here from London, Laurie had expected someone in his late forties or early fifties, wanting to exchange the bustle of life in the city for the much calmer pace of life in a small Norfolk town. Marc looked as if he was in his mid-thirties, a couple of years older than herself. And he was very easy on the eye, with hazel eyes behind wire-framed glasses, and dark hair, cut very short, which stuck up slightly on the top.
She damped down the surge of attraction. This was ridiculous. So what if he happened to remind her slightly of a TV star she'd had a crush on for ages? He probably wasn't single anyway; and, even if he was, she was very careful about relationships nowadays. No way was she giving Izzy a series of 'uncles' flitting in and out of her life in place of her absent father. Her little girl came first. Always would.
Besides, given what had happened with Dean, she didn't want to repeat her mistakes. Being single suited her just fine.
'So who's on your list this morning?' she asked.
He glanced at the screen. 'My first patient's Judy Reynolds.'
Marc looked at her, frowning. 'Is there anything I need to know?'
'Only that she's on my mental list for my pet project.'
'Sam mentioned that.'
'I thought he might.' She smiled at him. 'I'd better not make you late starting on your first day, but maybe we can talk about my project at break?' 'Sure.'
He pressed the button to call in his first patient, and a few moments later there was a knock at the door.
'Come in,' he called.
A middle-aged woman walked in, and her eyes widened as she saw both Laurie and Marc sitting there.
'Hello, Judy,' Laurie said with a smile. 'I hope you don't mind me sitting in on your appointment with Dr Bailey?'
'Is this all to do with your GP training thing?' Judy asked.
'Yes.' Laurie smiled. 'If anything, Dr Bailey's senior to mehe's been a GP for longer than I have.'
'That's fine. I don't mind you sitting in.'
'Thank you. Just pretend I'm not here,' Laurie said.
Judy looked at Marc. 'So you're not another locum, then?'
'No, I'm here permanently.'
'Right.' She blew out a breath. 'That last locum was terriblehe spoke to you as if you were a toddler.'
Laurie didn't say a wordthe practice manager already knew how everyone felt about that particular locum, staff and patients alikebut she wanted to see how Marc dealt with the situation.
'I'm sorry you had that kind of experience with him. But I'd like to assure you that that's not the way I do things, Mrs Reynolds,' Marc said. 'How can I help?'
'I'm probably wasting your time and I'm making a fuss over nothing, but I'm just'
She sighed. 'Well, I'm tired all the time. That locum sent me for blood tests, but I never heard anything back.'
Marc looked at the notes on the screen. 'I can see he checked you out for an underactive thyroid. Can I ask how your periods are?'
'A bit on the heavy side,' she admitted.
'That can make you a bit anaemic, which in turn can make you feel tired,' Marc said.
She grimaced. 'I'm almost looking forward to the menopause so I don't have to put up with them any more.'
'You don't have to put up with heavy periods now, either. It might be another five years before you're menopausal, but periods can often be a problem in the lead-up to menopause. I can give you something to make them a bit more manageable.'
Laurie liked the way he'd got straight to the point without any fuss or embarrassment.
Marc looked at the screen. 'Your blood results tell me your thyroid is working properly, but given that your periods are a bit heavy I'd like to take some blood and check your iron levels, if that's OK?'
'In the meantime, you might find it worth taking a supplement with B vitamins and zinc. That often helps with energy levels. Have you been under any extra stress lately?' he asked as he took the blood sample.
Judy shrugged. 'No more than any other mum who's got kids with exams coming up in a few weeks and they have to be nagged into revising.'
'Are you waking up at all in the night?'
'Not that I remember. I sleep like the dead.' She gave him a rueful look. 'Though my husband's been complaining about my snoring, and the kids say we do synchronised snoring.'
He returned her smile. 'And I bet they told you where it'd embarrass you most.'
'In the post office, where everyone could hear them.' She rolled her eyes. 'Yes.'
'It could be that you have sleep apnoea.'
'What's that?' Judy asked.
'It's where the soft tissues in your throat relax when you're asleep and block your airway for a few seconds, which brings your body out of deep sleep. It's so short you won't remember waking up. Even though you might think you've had a good night's sleep, you're not actually getting enough deep sleep to restore your energy levels.'
Laurie liked the way he'd explained it: concisely, and in layman's terms, while putting Judy at her ease. Marc was definitely going to be an asset to the team.
Judy looked worried. 'Do many people get it?'
'It's pretty common. About one in every fifty women of your age get it,' he said. 'But I need to ask you a few more questions to narrow things down a bit more, if you don't mind?'
Marc's manner was as nice as his voice, Laurie was pleased to discover, and he got a lot of information from Judy while keeping his questions relaxed and sounding concerned rather than aggressive.
'Do you have hay fever or anything like that?' he asked finally.
'Well, I often get a bit of a sniffle this time of year.' Judy flapped a dismissive hand. 'But it's nothing I'd bother a doctor with.'
'Any symptom's always worth checking out. That's what I'm here for,' he reassured her. 'I'd like you to have some tests, because from what you've told me I think you might well have sleep apnoea. I'll need to get in touch with the local sleep clinic, but what'll happen is that they'll give you a monitor to wear overnight to measure the oxygen in your blood and your breath, plus your heart rate, and then they'll analyse the data. It'll take me a couple of days to arrange, if that's OK? I'll get Phyllis to ring you as soon as I have some news.'
'Thank you.' Judy looked surprised. 'I'd never even heard of sleep apnoea before.'
'It might not be that,' he reassured her, 'but I think it's a possibility and it's worth checking out. If nothing else, we can cross it off the list of potential causes of your tiredness. You can do some things to help yourself in the meantime. I'm pleased you don't smoke or drink heavily, as that tends to make sleep apnoea worse, but losing weight would help you. So would sleeping on your side rather than your back.'
'How do I do that?' she asked.
'The easiest way is to put a tennis ball in a sock and pin it to the back of your nightie, so it's not comfortable for you to lie on your back.'
'Oh, very sexy,' she said with a grimace. 'My husband's going to wet himself laughing.'
'You said he's snoring, too. If it disturbs you,' Marc said, 'then you can do the same thing to his pyjamas. And tell him it's on your doctor's advice.' Mark smiled.
'I'll do that.' She smiled.
'Nowyour periods. It says here you're not on the Pill.'
'No. John had the snip after our son was born.' 'OK. Have you had any problem with taking any tablets with progesterone in the past?'
'Good. It's oestrogen that's making your periods heavy, and the progesterone will help balance that out a bit. You take the tablets for twenty-one days and then stop for seven, and you should find that your periods are a lot more manageable.'
'Losing weight,' he said gently, 'would help you with that as well. Your body produces more oestrogen when you're overweight.'
Judy looked upset. 'It's not as if I sit there watching TV all night, stuffing my face with doughnuts and burgers.'
'No,' he replied carefully, 'but your body's less efficient as you get older, so every year after you hit forty you'll need to exercise more and eat less to stay at the same weight. Which is totally unfair, but I guess at least it happens to all of us.'
'Can I suggest something?' Laurie asked. At Marc's nod, she continued, 'I'm about to set up a project for some of our patients who are having problems losing weight. It's not a judgemental thing, it's looking at ways we can support you better and help you. Would you like to come along and see what's on offer?'
'After all the diets I've been on, it's worth a try,' Judy said. 'All right.'